There are fewer than 100 Iowa National Guard soldiers on active duty this Christmas Eve, the lowest level of deployment since the Iraq War started.
About 75 Iowa National Guard soldiers from a unit in the Quad Cities returned home just before Thanksgiving.
“We have a very small amount deployed right now. We have about 70 airmen that are based out of Afghanistan and we have about 20 soldiers that are split out amongst a number of several places,” says Colonel Greg Hapgood, the Iowa National Guard’s spokesman. “At our peak, we were probably at about 3,300 to 3,400 who were all in a combat zone.”
Last Christmas, the Iowa National Guard had about 3,000 soldiers in Afghanistan, the largest single deployment of Iowa Guard troops since World War II.
“We’re in a very different place today than we were just 12 months ago,” Hapgood says. “Any time a service member’s home for the holidays, it’s huge. It is lonely and difficult away from home. On a holiday, it’s something you never, ever forget. You hope you never repeat it.”
On Christmas Day back in 2004, the Iowa National Guard had about 3,400 soldiers in Iraq.
“So we’ve had some pretty significant numbers gone during the holidays in the past,” Hapgood says.